Andrew Swanston, David Headley, DHH Literary Agency, Emma Buckley, Goldsboro Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Agent, Simon Taylor, The King's Exile, The King's Return, The King's Spy, Transworld Publishers, Waterloo
As any author will tell you, writing is a solitary business. Research done, or mostly done, experts consulted, places visited, it is just you and your laptop. Or at least that is how I found it when, only fifty years after I first thought of becoming a writer, I finally took a deep breath and set to.
I was immensely lucky. My first effort (The King’s Spy) fell into the hands of Emma Buckley, then an assistant editor at Transworld. Emma liked it enough to persuade her colleagues to offer me a three-book contract, which I accepted in a world record time of four seconds. That series is now finished. Having secured a publisher of Transworld’s standing and a contract, it did not occur to me that it might be a good idea to find an agency willing to represent me. Job done, I thought.
Let me be clear. Being a Transworld author is an immense privilege and I am extremely proud to be one. The journey has been exciting and rewarding and I hope it will go on forever. But negotiations, contracts, rights and all that stuff have to be attended to and take time and expertise. I had neither. Nor, I confess, much inclination to learn. I just wanted to write.
There was also the question of what to do after the three books were done. More of the same? Something different – a new period for example, (the books are set in the seventeenth century) or even a new genre? Transworld, in the person of the marvellous Simon Taylor, have of course guided me, but, until now, guided me alone. I have not always found it easy to tread the path between leaving the publisher to publish and getting on with writing, and pestering the patience out of them with demands for information and advice.
Enter David Headley. I knew David from attending author events at Goldsboro Books and from signing books there. His business is an author’s dream. Wonderful staff, great books and a loyal customer base he has built up since he started in 1999. In January, I asked him if his agency, DHH, would consider taking me on as an author. Over a cup of tea – I promise, tea – he agreed and within a week the contract was signed. I am delighted, I hope David is delighted, and, perhaps best of all my friends at Transworld are delighted. Much easier for them to deal with an experienced and respected agency than a callow author.
In the brief time we have been together, David has already made a difference. The way forward is much clearer than it was and that makes putting words on the screen a good deal easier. He has been both a sounding-board and a conduit. O joy, O bliss – my days are now spent thinking and writing, while his are spent negotiating, arguing, persuading and doing all those commercial things which have to be done.
My fictonalised account of the gallant and vital defence of Chateau Hougoumont during the Battle of Waterloo – Waterloo: The bravest man – is now in David’s hands, and I am hard at work on a new book set in 1572, the year of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris. Much work and hopefully much success lies ahead.
At the age of 66, who could ask for more?
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